Beating The Casino – From Basic Strategies To Advantage Play

May 25

Ever since gambling games were introduced, players have been looking for ways to improve their odds and win. Now, not much has changed and while the casino games come with set rules and regulations to eliminate most of the variations that come from the players, there are still various ways to get a leg up on the house.

Granted, not all of them are actually approved by casinos and we will take a look at some of the most popular ones. The methods can range from picking the right version of the game to using advanced mathematics or even spotting small differences in the equipment. Before we get started, it is important to keep in mind that some of the methods listed here are frowned upon in casinos and can be grounds for the winnings being revoked.

Playing the Odds

Every casino game is based on odds and payouts. The house edge represents the difference resulted from the two and it is basically the advantage the casino has when all the bets are covered.

For example, in a game of American roulette, there are 38 different numbers. Getting the right one on a bet of $1 will result in a payout of $35 plus the initial $1 back. However, since there are 38 possible outcomes, the house wins even if all the bets are covered. To better explain this, imagine that you are placing a bet on all the numbers available for a total of $38 in bets. Whatever the result will be, the return on the spin will be worth $36, so the casino keeps $2. This roughly translates into a house edge of 5.26%.

The roulette example also leads us to the first tip to get closer to beating the casino and that is to choose the variant of the game with the best odds. While American roulette has a higher house edge due to the fact that it uses two green pockets on its wheel, European roulette only has one and this lowers the house edge to 2.70%; meaning that players lose less on every bet they make.

Similar picking tips can be applied to different versions of blackjack, baccarat, video poker and even slots. Taking a look at the numbers is the first step in beating the casino one bet at the time. The game remains pretty much the same, apart from small differences in rules or mechanics, so there should be no reason why players can’t opt for the best version of the game they like. Using the previous examples, fans of American roulette should have no problems with switching over to the European version if that means a more favorable outcome in the long run.

Basic Strategies

Although all casino games are based on random outcomes, players have always been looking for ways to predict the results in order to win more. This has led to various strategies that cover betting patterns, previous results, future odds and just about everything you can think of. While not all of them have merit, there are actually some great strategies that can be applied to certain casino games for better results.

The most popular one is Blackjack Basic Strategy. Also known as advanced moves for 21, it consists of using precise options while playing the regular version of the popular card game. The fact that blackjack provides the player with several options means that it is one of the few games where the customer actually has the power the influence the outcome after the initial bet was placed.

For those who are not familiar with the exact mechanics of 21, the dealer offers the player two cards facing up and two cards to the house, from which only one is facing up. With the goal of the game being to get the total value of the hand closer to 21 than the opponent, but not go over it, the player has the option to Stand and keep the cards dealt so far or Hit and get one more from the deck. Additional options for Double and Split can be available if the situation allows for them.

The Blackjack Strategy determines what move is the correct one in each starting hand based on the two cards dealt to the player and the one showing from the dealer. This will significantly lower the house edge and make blackjack the best game in a casino. The table presented above is pretty easy to follow and it is essential to keep in mind that it only lowers the house edge, not eliminate it. The casino will still win in the long run if everything is equal but combined with some additional strategies with betting variations, it is a lot easier to win on the tables.

Online blackjack provides the ideal training ground for using basic strategy since it is very easy to have the table open on a different tab and just follow the indicated moves. Since some blackjack games can come with slightly different regulations, it is very important to match the table with the version.

Card Counting

On the subject of blackjack, we can’t talk about ways of beating the casino without mentioning card counting. Made popular by several big movies, card counting has actually been a sensitive subject in casinos since the 1960s. It is an advantage play that uses skills like memory, observation and computation to determine the next cards. While it is never an exact prediction, players use card counting in order to keep track of the dealt cards so far and thus get a general idea of the ones still to come.

Card counting in blackjack is made more difficult with the casino using more decks and it is virtually impossible to do when playing online, since the cards are shuffled after each hand. Although card counting is not illegal in general, the fact that it offers the player with an advantage in the long term often times makes for an undesirable customer and the casino can opt to eject or blacklist those found guilty of it.

By knowing what cards have been dealt and which ones are still in the deck, players can opt to vary their bets accordingly. A larger starting bet is often times used when the remaining deck has many cards worth ten points and aces, thus providing a better chance at hitting 21 and getting the bigger win. Basic strategy can still be applied while keeping the results from card counting in mind, with more situations becoming profitable for Double Down bets.

A typical system used in card counting assigns a certain score to the cards based on the ranks. For example cards with ranks between 2 and 6 can be worth 1 point, those from 7 to 9 are 0 points and the higher ones are -1. When the cards are exposed, the player simply adds the score to the running total, also known as the count. Based on the current count, players can determine their bets after set tables.

Overall, card counting will tip the scales quite a bit. From an average house edge of 0.5-1% when using basic strategy when playing blackjack, using proper card counting strategies will result in a 2% advantage for the player over the house. An appealing fact about it is that players don’t have to have advanced math degrees to apply card counting to the game. It does take some practice however but it can pay off nicely.

Actor Ben Affleck has been accused several times of card counting in casinos and he opened up on the matter in 2014. The 43-year-old claims that he simply got too good at the game of blackjack and the casinos asked him to stop playing.

Edge Sorting

Edge sorting is a technique that can give players an unfair advantage when playing card games in a land-based casino. The system is based on small irregularities in the cards which can offer the player additional information on the values on the front by seeing the back. Some decks of cards come with small differences, mostly seen in the edges, which make them distinguishable. Once observed, the pattern can be memorized and noticed as long as the cards are not rotated when shuffled, something which shuffling machines do.

The player can ask the dealer to change the deck until one with irregularities is observed, often times using the excuse of luck and superstitions in the game. On the same concept, the dealer can be asked to rotate certain cards in order to make it easier for the player to differentiate between the low and the high values. While the dealer is not obligated to do any of this, they generally look to please customers with their superstitions as long as it doesn’t actually affect the result of the game.

A great example of edge sorting took place a few years ago and it had poker player Phil Ivey in the middle of it. Ivey is a known gambler and casino player and in 2012 he was playing baccarat with a partner at the luxurious Crockford’s Casino in London with a stake of £1 million. According to reports, the poker pro kept asking the dealer to change the deck and then rotate the cards when he found the right deck. As a result of card counting, Phil Ivey had won £7.7 million by playing the popular punto banco variant of baccarat.

However, the casino initially said that it will transfer the money to his account and then refused to pay the winnings. Ivey sued the casino and demanded payment but lost in the High Court in the UK when the judge declared card counting as being cheating. His initial stake was returned but not the winnings. Furthermore, the judge stated that Phil Ivey using edge sorting was not actually cheating and that the casino should have protected itself, but the fact that he used the croupier as an innocent agent made it illegal.

The Borgata Casino also filled a lawsuit in 2014 against Phil Ivey for winning $9.6 million in 2012 while playing baccarat. One of the sessions saw the poker pro win $4.79 million in 17 hours. The casino insisted that Ivey used card counting as he wanted to use a certain type of purple decks from Gemaco. According to the lawsuit, Phil Ivey managed to provide an advantage of 6.765% for himself, on top of the 1.06% house edge of the game, by noticing small differences in the edges of the pattern on the back of the cards.

Overall, both edge sorting and card counting come with negative connotations but in the world of gamblers, they simply represent fair ways for players to spot and use mistakes in the casino or even in the mechanics of the game. At the end of the day, each game is actually a battle between the player and the casino, with each side looking to get money from the other one.